GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – A second-string Japan XV went down 40-5 to Gloucester at Kingsholm on Tuesday evening, as the Brave Blossoms once again failed to turn possession into points and struggled with the interpretations of the local referee.
With test matches three days either side of this game, stand-in coach Scott Wisemantel named a young, inexperienced squad, and while there were plenty of glimpses of Japan’s attacking flair, there were too many errors coupled with some dreadful decision making, as the Brave Blossoms’ lack of big-time rugby once again came back to haunt them.
“We put ourselves in a position to score many times but our individual skill and fundamental play let us down,” said captain Takashi Kikutani. “It’s something we need to fix.”
After a nice sunny afternoon in the West Country, the cold set in, though that did not deter 6,988 from turning up and ensuring there was plenty of noise from the Shed.
They were soon quieted as Justin Ives went over in just the second minute following a turnover and a good run by Akihito Yamada. But that was as good as it got for Japan in the first half.
The next 15 minutes was spent entirely in the Brave Blossoms 22, and Gloucester eventually made the pressure tell when Charlie Sharples picked a great angle and outsprinted the Japan defense to go over in the corner.
Japan should have scored next when Yu Tamura picked up an intercept. But the flyhalf didn’t have the gas to go the whole way and Gloucester not only recovered the ball but ran it back 90 meters — aided by a very poor attempt at a tackle by Yamada — with James Simpson-Daniel finishing things off under the posts.
Rob Cook added the extras and then converted two more tries from Sharples as Japan struggled with the pace of the Gloucester backs.
“We put so much into attack and then turned the ball over that there was space for them to attack,” said Wisemantel. “We need to react quicker and look at why we are turning the ball over.”
To their credit, the visitors didn’t drop their heads and their willingness to play with ball in hand was met with appreciation by the rugby-wise crowd.
But as in the game against Scotland, errors ensured they couldn’t turn possession into points, and it was 26-5 at the break.
“We started slowly which was disappointing,” said Sharples. “But fortunately we were able to bounce back and capitalize on some good territory and possession and it felt good going in at halftime three or four tries clear.”
Japan started the second half as it did the first, playing at pace, even when it was reduced to 14 players when Kyosuke Horie was sent to the sin bin in the 52nd minute. But once again unforced errors meant Japanese willingness to attack went unrewarded.
Japan No. 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani will be available to play Russia on Friday after escaping further sanction at a rugby judicial hearing for a dangerous tackle.
Holani was yellow-carded and cited for a dangerous tackle in the second half of the 42-17 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
But while an independent disciplinary panel upheld the citing on Tuesday, it said no further sanction was necessary.
Japan and Russia will meet in Colwyn Bay, Wales.